The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Mint Theater June 2021
New York's Mint
Theater is devoted to rediscovering “lost” plays from the first half of
the Twentieth Century. But every once in a while their revival merely
shows why the play was lost in the first place.
was a popular Broadway playwright of the 1930s, equally adept at satiric
comedy (The Show-Off) and psychological melodrama (Craig's Wife). But in
his last produced play (1946) he seems to have been unsure which mode he
wanted, and this 2014 Mint production seems equally uncertain in tone.
woman married 26 years is told her husband is cheating on her. With
methodic calm she sets about getting the story confirmed and then
arranging the divorce, while saving her daughter's troubled marriage
almost in passing.
hurt much or all that bothered by the adventure, and the woman ends the
play exactly where she began it, indulging in her hobby of gate-crashing
other people's weddings.
I spent the
first act seriously disliking Kristin Griffith's performance in the
central role, because Kelly was writing in a perfectly adequate
imitation of Noel Coward's brittle wit and Griffith seemed to be missing
every chance to punch up a zinger or get a laugh with an arched eyebrow.
minute I saw what an actress with a sense of comic style – Diana Rigg,
say, or Felicity Kendal, or Penelope Keith, or Phoebe Waller-Bridge –
could have done with this line or that reaction.
And then I
realised that it wasn't the actress's fault. She was just following
orders, and director Jesse Marchese had for some reason decided to
suppress all the wit and humour in the writing.
didn't completely succeed, of course, and Kristin Griffith gets an
occasional laugh. Playing a gossip-loving friend who enlists a network
of fellow busybodies to be the heroine's spies and detectives, Cynthia
Darlow can't disguise the fact that hers is a comic character, while
Patricia Kilgarriff as a tut-tutting maid gets laughs by default by
being the only one who plays for them.)
nothing inherently wrong with choosing to play The Fatal Weakness as
melodrama, except that the playwright gives the director very little to
It is central
to the main character as written that she is fairly shallow and not
particularly upset by the end of her marriage, and her coolness does not
invite sympathy or concern. (In a real sense, if she doesn't care, why
The Fatal Weakness is not a bad play. It's just one that desperately needs a charismatic and stylish star at its centre and a director able to give it a controlling tone.
The multi-camera video recording is excellent, though the sound is occasionally uneven.
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